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MEN OF MATHEMATICS
which Zeno infected it has not yet been alleviated. His disturb-
ing discovery is a curious echo of his own intellectual life. We
shall first glance at the facts of his material existence, not of
much interest in themselves, perhaps, but singularly illumina-
tive in their later aspects of his theory.
Of pure Jewish descent on both sides, Georg Ferdinand
Ludwig Philipp Cantor was the first child of the prosperous
merchant Georg Waldemar Cantor and his artistic wife Maria
Bohm. The father was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, but
migrated as a young man to St Petersburg, Russia, where the
mathematician Georg Cantor was born on 3 March 1845. Pul-
monary disease caused the father to move in 1856 to Frankfurt,
Germany, where he lived hi comfortable retirement till his
death in 1863. From this curious medley of nationalities it is
possible for several fatherlands to claim Cantor as their son.
Cantor himself favoured Germany, but it cannot be said that
Germany favoured him very cordially.
Georg had a brother Constantin, who became a German army
officer (what a career for a Jew!), and a sister, Sophie Nobiliag.
The brother was a fine pianist; the sister an accomplished
designer. Georg's pent-up artistic nature found its turbulent
outlet in mathematics and philosophy, both classical and
scholastic. The marked artistic temperaments of the children
were inherited from their mother, whose grandfather was a
musical conductor, one of whose brothers, living in Vienna,
taught the celebrated violinist Joachim. A brother of Maria
Cantor was a musician, and one of her nieces a painter. If it is
true, as claimed by the psychological proponents of drab medio-
crity, that normality and phlegmatic stability are equivalent,
all this artistic brilliance in his family may have been the root
of Cantor's instability.
The family were Christians, the father having been converted
to Protestantism; the mother was born a Roman Catholic. Like
his arch-enemy Kronecker, Cantor favoured the Protestant side
and acquired a singular taste for the endless hairsplitting of
medieval theology. Had he not become a mathematician it is
quite possible that he would have left his mark on philosophy
or theology. As an item of interest that may be noted in.this
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